Isn't it strange to think that Tom Hanks actually used to pose for head shots, just like every other struggling actor? That there was a time when he wasn't famous; just another good-looking young man wanting to break in to show business? Having to go and have those head-shots taken at some studio somewhere--to go through the embarrassment of having to get pictures taken of yourself so that you can try to sell yourself? Like, yourself. Turning your person into a product and then trying to market YOU. Most actors, even the most vain, I think, find the whole undertaking of headshots if not an embarrassment, then at least a nuisance. What should I wear? Should I get a hair-cut? Do I want to smile or be more serious or strike a pose somewhere between (like Tom in the above shot). Which one should I pick? Is that really the best I can do? Do I really look like this? Who is that person? Who do I think I am? Who the fuck is going to hire me? Will I make it? Is this stupid? I'm not funny. I can't act. Where's the nearest cliff so I can just go get it over with.
And so on.
Like, why did Tom pick that shirt? It's kind of a busy choice. A Native American print? Why baby blue when he has green eyes? A color head shot? Another bold choice. Why didn't he give himself a closer shave? Is that a scar on his right eyebrow? Why does this untouched picture exist? Is it a head shot or a publicity still? He has a boyish neck. A nice neck. It appears tactile: there's no Hollywood gloss. What is he thinking? I don't know; but he seems so human. Vulnerable. I'm worried about him here. But I needn't. Things worked out pretty well for Tom; and subsequently, for us.
My mother, who is in her mid-80's now, used to say this to me, quite a bit, when I was toiling away in Hollywood: "You should write a letter to Tom." "Tom who?" I would reply. "Tom Hanks. I'm sure Tom would write back to you!" She would call him "Tom" like she knew him personally. "You're right mom," I would say, "I should write to him..." But I never did, of course. I mean, if a letter had been written, I probably could've got it as close to Tom as maybe his agent. The agent would probably toss it into a bin with all the other fan letters to Tom. The letters praising him or wanting something from him. I can't imagine any of it could've been hate mail. No, wait, he used to wear a dress on national television.
What would I "want" from Tom Hanks? A personal assistant gig? Career advice? I already knew what that advice would be. "Get a good head shot. Go on auditions. Get into The Groundlings or some acting class and do a showcase. Then cross your fingers." What about friendship? Yes, that would've been nice; but that's not how friendship works. People don't befriend you, generally, because you write them a letter. Movie stars in particular. Even the nice ones.
I must've had aspirations (albeit submerged ones) of acting stardom when I first moved to Hollywood because I actually had some head shots taken at some point. I had gone to film school with the idea of being a movie director. I learned pretty fast that they don't just hand you a camera in Hollywood and tell you to go shoot something. You have to pay your "dues" first. Oh, if I had a friggin' nickel for every time I heard that word! So, at some point during my Tinseltown tenure, I was in Boston and I had a photographer friend take my first official head shot. Oops, I gotta go find it. So here is a publicity still from my junior year of high school. A production of The Private Ear:
Eventually I started working at Paramount Studios and got a much better idea of how the Hollywood hierarchy worked within that realm. I started to understand why some people slept with higher-ups to get better "positioning." It was just easier; you could get those dues out of the way quicker. (No, the opportunity never presented itself to me). I have this great story about a gal who kept a diary of her evening exploits with the CEO of So and So Productions. The diary was stolen and its highly personal contents were leaked; but that's a story for another day. But I will say, she had great taste. She wore Chanel and that CEO was one smokin' hot piece of executive man-candy. I would've gladly positioned myself for him.
It was on the Paramount lot that I actually laid eyes on Tom Hanks. I happened to walk by a make-up trailer on the backlot and he happened to be leaning out the door for a breath of air. He was jocularly talking back over his shoulder to someone in the trailer. I was a page; so stopping to chat with a Star was strictly verboten. Not that I would've. My mother certainly would've! He was filming Forrest Gump at the time. I was actually on the Oval Office set from that movie. Tom's a Pepper too!
But back to Tom.
When I saw Tom in the make-up trailer I was about 28 years old. Tom is ten years older than me. I'm now 55, soon to turn 56 (there's no point in lying about our age anymore, is there? In this day and age; it's stupid anyways). Tom is in his mid-60's. How did this happen? That day on the backlot seems like yesterday to me. Or maybe, like, ten years ago. As Farah Fawcett said in the TV movie Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story: "Life is just a drag-race to the grave."
That's one way to look at it. You can also look at from a hair-dye company's point of view: "You're not getting older; you're getting better!"
Thank you for doing the movie Philadelphia.
Okay, wait a minute...
I have a side note about this movie. I'll get back to the thank yous in a minute.
I didn't see Philadelphia at the movies when it first came out. I don't know why. It was the kind of thing I usually went to see. But it was 1993 and I had just landed a job at Paramount and I was super busy and extremely broke. I just didn't see it at the cinema. I did see it later on, on VIDEOTAPE. It was a wonderful movie. An important movie. It really helped to open up the national dialogue about AIDS and put a very human face on a disease that was killing a lot of young men. Thank you. But thinking back on it...your amazing scenes with Antonio Banderas (what a fantastic casting choice!)--I have to ask...Why didn't you guys kiss? That movie so needed a passionate kiss between the two men. Not having that kiss really put the film into genteel-land. It's kind of left the movie, historically, in the lurch. I mean, when was the last time someone said, "Hey, let's watch Philidelphia"? I mean, have you ever seen Law of Desire? Antonio would've totally gone there with you. Not just a kiss but...you name it.
I think I can understand why there was no hot kiss. It was 1993. It was a major studio release. It was a taboo subject. We were lucky it got made at all. Maybe you and Antonio could reunite, if not in a movie, then maybe a little promo for National Coming Out Day where the two of you give the world that kiss that so many of us felt we were denied. Who cares how old you are? It would still be smoldering.
Back to the "thank yous."
Thank you Tom, for doing this scene, which has provided fodder for I don't know how many fantasies (not just mine)...
Also, thank you for being in Bosom Buddies. That show was revolutionary in its own way. Its gay subtext was possibly just text. Cross dressing? Gender fluidity? Dudes in the creative realm? The more I think about it, the gayer it gets...and that's a great thing. You broke ground. Bosom Buddies has a special place in my heart because it reminds me of my friend Scott. For whatever reason, even though the show only had 37 episodes, it went into syndicated re-runs. They were on every day after school and we would watch and laugh together. Whenever I hear Billy Joel's "My Life" I think of him and when we were young men; when we were "bosom buddies." I know he feels the same too. I too had fantasies of moving to New York and being in advertising. To say the show resonated with my fourteen year- old self would be an understatement.
Thank you Tom, for doing a semi-nude scene in Forrest Gump:
Thank you Tom, for hosting Saturday Night Live as often as you do. You still so bring the funny. I mean, David S. Pumpkins? Tom, that shouldn't be funny. But it's hilarious. Do you have a pact with the Devil? No, you're just willing to try new things and they pay off: because you're open minded. Clearly, you like to have fun. You're willing to look like a fool. We need fools.
Tom, thank you for being Tom Hanks. I'm not saying you're perfect; or that you're a saint. But you've proven yourself to be a real stand-up person. And now you've reached a sort of living legend status and have managed to remain humble. Tom...I think maybe you should run for President of the United States. You've got my vote.
And Tom, in all seriousness (because I seriously crushed on him), my condolences to you on the loss of Peter Scolari. You guys were like brothers. That really came through on Bosom Buddies. Kip may have been head over heels for Sonny...but I think Henry was really head over heels for Kip. And maybe, just maybe, Peter was head over heels for Tom.
I wouldn't doubt it.
And my mom thanks you!